26 Dec 2017

Bird finally gets another callup

5:47 am on 26 December 2017

Perennial 12th man Jackson Bird could hardly have made a better impression on Steve Smith this year.

Jackson Bird (R) shouts a successful caught behind appeal against Mohammad Amir.

Jackson Bird (R) shouts a successful caught behind appeal against Mohammad Amir. Photo: AFP

Bird has claimed injured spearhead Mitchell Starc's place in Australia's XI for the fourth Ashes Test.

It has been a long wait for the right-armer, whose previous Test came a year ago at the MCG.

Bird has been part of Australia's Test squad throughout 2017, including tours of India and Bangladesh.

But on every occasion he has been running drinks and bowling in the nets.

Starc broke down during the four-Test series in India but selectors overlooked Bird, instead summoning Pat Cummins to the subcontinent.

It was a similar story when Josh Hazlewood suffered a side strain in Bangladesh. Spinner Steve O'Keefe was parachuted in and played ahead of Bird.

"He's been fantastic around the group the whole time," Smith said ahead of the start of the Test on Boxing Day at the MCG.

"Never complained, never whinged.

"Just got on with the job and that shows great character.

"It's tough at the time but he's taken every bit of advice and every bit of criticism or whatever the selectors have said."

Smith also highlighted Bird's impressive domestic form.

The paceman has consistently troubled batsmen this Sheffield Shield season, topping the wicket-taking list with 25 scalps at 16.56.

"He has dominated," Smith said.

"He bowled exceptionally well in the first couple of Shield games this season.

"He bowls well out here (at the MCG) so he deserves a crack and hopefully goes really well."

Smith is upbeat but very much unsure whether Starc will be fit for the fifth Test.

"We'll see. He's got a bit of a break now," he said.

"A good chance to rest that foot with no load going through it. Hopefully he recovers really well."

Bird noted last week he is under no illusions about Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and James Pattinson sitting above him on the national pace pecking order.

"I'm completely realistic in where I sit," Bird said.

"They're all world-class fast bowlers.

"I'm not complaining. I'm in a better spot than some blokes are."

Meanwhile England paceman Tom Curran will make his Test debut on Boxing Day at the MCG in a forced change to the tourists' XI.

With Craig Overton out of the fourth Ashes match due to a cracked rib, Curran, uncapped legspinner Mason Crane, first-Test flop Jake Ball and 2015 Ashes winner Mark Wood were in the mix to receive a call-up.

Skipper Joe Root made a captain's call, backing the South-African born seamer to rattle Australia on a flat pitch.

"Sometimes as a captain you have to go with your gut," Root said.

The tourists only have pride to play for in the five-Test series, having already surrendered the urn after the third match in Perth.